The iPad 2 changed Neal Edelstein’s life. Edelstein had been working as a producer for more than a decade, making such movies as David Lynch‘s “Mulholland Drive,” “The Ring” and "The Ring Two.”
When Edelstein got the tablet in his hands, he felt he was holding the future of entertainment. He's spent the past two years creating what may be a game-changing Apple-only app, the horror franchise “Haunting Melissa.”
“I wanted to tell a ghost story in a different way because of the way technology was moving," he told TheWrap, "but it wasn’t really until I saw [the iPad] that I went, ‘OK this is it … now I can do it,'” Edelstein said. “I did not want to have a script laying around that I couldn’t get made. I wanted this really kind of unpredictable, disjointed schedule, and I also wanted the pieces to be completely unpredictable.”
Horror films are all about surrendering control, as the viewer yields to the filmmaker for every twist, turn and fright.
“Haunting Melissa” takes that concept one step further. Viewers can download the app for free from the app store, and the first chapter is free. To continue on, they will have to pay, but they will no idea when the next chapter is coming.
Edelstein — who refused to reveal any plot points — has set a schedule for each new episode to arrive minutes, hours or days after the viewer finishes the previous episode. “Everyone’s experience is going to be different unless they all watch it on day one,” he said.
A producer raised in the world of music videos and David Lynch, “Haunting Melissa” is his first time directing a feature. He came up with the story and hired “True Crime” novelist Andrew Klavan to handle the screenplay. All his actors were local Canadians.
“I’m sure I fucked some things up, but I was super prepared,” he said.
The entire series is has been completed, he said, at a cost of just less than $1 million.
A season's pass will set viewers back $6.99 (or $14.99 for HD); individual episodes go for 99 cents (or $1.99 for HD). And viewers who share on social media that they watched the first episode can still watch the second for free.
There will be no advertising at all. Edelstein said he will rely on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the viral nature of successful projects on the internet, assured that both the quality of his project and his innovative approach to storytelling would be enough for people to buy it.
“I don’t want this to be like XYZ studio is trying to push a new thing,” Edelstein said. “I want people to try and discover this. If it’s going to succeed it’s going to happen that way.”
Though some money will come from sales, Edelstein insists that is not the priority. The project was funded, he said, thanks to an angel investor that he could never convince to invest in movies. Though he has no guarantee that he’ll get his money back on this project, his investor is already open to a sequel.
"We are in it to really figure it out. If we didn’t nail it here, we’re going to adjust,” Edelstein said.